Backyard Reno: Totally Functional – Help me decide how to finish it!

Last week, fall finally showed its beautiful temps here in central Ohio and I decided to make the most of it. Thursday afternoon I spent a few hours unloading pea gravel between meetings (since it was cool and breezy enough to do so without breaking much of a sweat). On Friday two of my calls were canceled so I took the day off to finish the job. One more day, another yard of pea gravel, 12 bags of cobblestone, 2 bunny statues, and 583 pounds of stepping stone later, and I have a beautiful, still not finished but fully functional backyard space right off the deck and living room patio.

I wasted no time, even pumping while I shoveled and raked. Bladen played in his outdoor high chair while I worked and my brother Josh made sure the floodlights stayed on for me and even helped me put my new table together that had been sitting in the garage since April.

One more day, another yard of pea gravel, 12 bags of cobblestone, 2 bunny statues, and 583 pounds of stepping stone later, and I have a beautiful, still not finished but fully functional backyard space right off the deck and living room patio.

I present to you my new favorite spot in the backyard. I placed every 👏 single 👏 rock 👏 and 👏 stone 👏 here 👏 !

With only a few alterations to my original vision (see it here) and a few more final touches needed, I couldn’t ‘t love it more. Here’s why:

  1. Flow & Connection. The space flows nicely from the existing garden beds and walkways. I extended the stepping stone and cobblestone pathway from the soon-to-be wrap-around corner stairs off the deck to the concrete (soon-to-be covered) patio off the living room, to the pathway around the tree trunk, and out to the yard. This created continuity and a visual flow from one space to another, as well as a separation between the walkways and the outdoor “room”. On the deck overlooking this space is another outdoor dining table; I shared in my original post that this felt disconnected from the other side of the deck where the main outdoor eating space was. Now that I’ve got a table under the tree, our larger gatherings will stay connected–allowing people to see and talk to each other.

Easy, smokeless heat. Originally I planned on getting a bowl-shaped fire pit for the space but hadn’t purchased one yet and the kids were so excited to have a fire in the new space so I moved the old fire ring to the new space. But Sr. had other plans. He wasn’t a fan of a wood-burning fire under our beautiful tree. Plus we’ve (I) got an awful track record of wanting to have a fire right after a rain–when all our wood is wet. So he surprised me with a great little propane fire table. I love it! I can have fire any time I want AND we don’t all need to go wash off the smell of smoke when we come in.

Room with a view. I think this is actually one of Sr.’s highlights–the t.v. in the living room is visible through the doors. We watched the Buckeye’s game the first night out there. The only thing missing was sound. Luckily, Jr. found out that our t.v. sound can hook up to Bluetooth so problem solved! Eventually, we’ll replace these doors and I think this idea will influence our decision on the design of those doors.

Shade. Not that this will matter the rest of this year with fall, and soon winter, but this tree provides the BEST shade and cool temps on hot, sunny days. Seriously, it feels 10-20 degrees cooler in the shade of that tree. The canopy is also mesmerizing to look up at as you relax with a nice beverage in the sitting area.

Bunnies. During my many trips to the outdoor and garden store for soil gravel and stone last week I fell in love with these two bunny statues. Of course, after just picking up a rooster statue for the new coop, my co-workers think I have a slight problem. They told me one more statue and they’re staging an intervention. 🤣 But you can’t tell me these bunnies don’t fit in the space perfectly.

So, what’s left? (Here is where you can help!)

Stairs

My brother Josh, who has been staying with us for a few months and helped me excavate the area this spring, had the idea to create more flow with stairs that wrap around the corner of the deck. He’s actually suggested many ways for us to open the deck up more since he started staying with us–I think the fact that when you come out of the sunroom, you have to go either right or left to get off the deck drives him nuts. Anyway, this is the first of his ideas that I’ve liked, and felt it was a manageable change. Of course, it means that the deck railing bar I envisioned won’t work since this is the rail where I would have put that, but I think it really would make a statement.

So, while I was tossing stepping stones and cobblestone around, I went ahead and placed them as if the stairs were there to match the stepping stone landing of the existing stairs. I also dug up the part of the garden bed where the steps would go. This actually worked out GREAT because I relocated the soil and plants to the small retaining wall I built up around the trunk of the tree.

Patio

Another change I plan to make is to cover the existing concrete patio off the living room door. It’s list pretty blah and, where the bricks were added to extend the pad, water still sits, though not as much. I just can’t decide if I was to put decking material there or stone. 🤔 I’d love to know what you think.

Inspiration:

Lighting

Currently, we’ve used the floodlights above the doors to light the space but this is obviously temporary. I have several boxes of my favorite outdoor solar-powered string lights sitting in the garage, waiting for me to figure out what configuration I want to hang them in. It’s going to be gorgeous BUT I’m having trouble identifying the best placement for maximum solar powering–remember the great shade I was boasting about?

Mural

Lastly, there is the matter of the boring brick wall on either side of the door. It’s just missing something. It looks like there used to be some kind of ivy growing on the wall which is long gone now. I’ve considered a few different things to break up the wall space but the most appealing is the idea of painting a mural here (another one of Josh’s ideas!). When we moved into our childhood home, our mother drew a fun mural on the backside of the garage where the pool patio was. The whimsical frogs swimming in a pond and diving off lily pads. She had us help her paint it which was super fun and a memory I hold to this day.

I’m thinking of something floral and colorful and of course, getting the kids into the action. Currently, I’m just trying to decide if I want a more realistic or playful, more abstract look. To me, the realistic would feel like a giant painting as opposed to an abstract pattern that would have more of a wallpaper feel. Let’s do another poll! What do you think?

Inspiration:



Progress! Backyard Reno

Last time I shared with y’all I was fresh into redoing the backyard, so excited about the possibilities. It’s been a month and a half and until this weekend the project hadn’t gone any further.

Before/early progress- July 2022

Luckily the stars aligned and I had the energy AND the time. I told Sr. that all I wanted for my birthday was the materials to bring my vision to life (and his truck to haul it all 🤣).

We’re in the middle of football and softball season so Saturdays are just about the only day we have free so this past Saturday we got to work. Brian and Ella even HELPED!

Two loads of topsoil later and we’ve got a pretty good, level base for the pea gravel. The two railroad ties from the existing garden bed, of which we removed 4-5 feet in July ended up being great borders for the two sides. These are only temporary –Sr. thinks the ties are yellow jacket magnets and wants to get rid of all of them down the road. I used rock from a pathway I removed in the front gardens to round out the corner between the two ties. This matches the layered rock corners found elsewhere around the house gardens.

We also decided to move the azalea, opening up the space even more–another 3-4 feet. This was my brother Josh’s brilliant idea! We moved it to the little outside corner of the space and added some rocks. The larger space now has me thinking we could open the stairs up more on the corner to further connect the space!

Next up, I’ll dig a trench to fix a standing water issue at the patio and divert it downhill, add landscape fabric, and then pea gravel and done! I’m hoping I can get to it all by this weekend. 🤞🏻🤞🏻



Lately on the Homestead: Backyard Reno

Last summer, despite Sr.’s disapproval, I put a pool up. He was against the idea for two reasons

1. He’s not a fan of pools(unless there’s a slide going into the pool, he doesn’t see the point) and thinks they attract mosquitos. 🙄

2. He thought I’d ruin the grass.

While it didn’t attack mosquitos, the pool was more trouble than it was worth, and, given all the sand I put down to level the spot for the pool, I ruined the grass. 😬

Ignore the junk all over.

But with failure comes opportunity!

So now I’m working on a renovation of the “old” pool area by opening the space up and adding a dining and firepit area. Before I get into the details of my vision and progress so far, here are a few other reasons why I’m making a change:

  • It’s significantly cooler it was under the shade of that big oak tree than in the shade of our gazebo on the other side of the porch.
  • During our mothers day cookout, I became frustrated with how segregated the two dining areas were–with the sunroom between the two spaces it can be hard to monitor the kids (if they are on the other side) or have a conversation with the rest of the party.
  • I never really liked the table that came with the sectional under the gazebo–I prefer that sectional to be a sitting space.
  • The walkout patio has always been too small to be functional for us but I’d prefer to use that door more for coming in and out, especially after sledding in the winter when we need to head straight to the laundry room to remove our wet clothes and set them to dry (the laundry room is directly to the right of the walkout). Currently, we use the sunroom or garage entrance and then have to walk through the main floor and down to the living room to access the laundry.
  • The brickwork at the end of the patio also collected water after rains, which needs to be addressed. It’s not causing damage, it just annoys me.
  • I needed another project to fill the time that I don’t have this summer 🤣

Alright, so what’s the plan? So glad you asked!

Cue vision board!

Okay, so the plan is to remove a portion of the existing border gardens to open the space for an easier flow to the new conversation/firepit area and add a dining space behind it. Oh, and those wagon wheel chandeliers, hoping to get some old wheels from the family ranch back in Texas. We almost came home with a few in June but they were much heavier than I anticipated.

All this new space will be filled with pea gravel… primarily because it’s inexpensive and I’m too half-assy to do anything more legit.

I’ll also be fixing the pooling water at the edge of the walkout patio.

And since there is a bit of a grade to the lawn (the area under the tree and where the bench swing is higher than the lawn space in front of the patio), I’ll build up the new space to the height of the railroad ties using a layered rock border so it can taper off as it goes uphill.

We’ve already begun working on the space–removing portions of the existing garden beds and moving some of the river rock to expand/define the pathway.

Heat and a busy schedule (and a baby) have kept me from making much more progress in the last month but I’m hoping to complete the space before the end of fall so we can make some good nights by the fire happen before winter!



Winterizing the Chicken Coop and Run

It’s a blistery, cold day here in central Ohio as the winter storm impacting much of the US this early February hits us. Also, Punxatawny Phil says it’ll be 6 more weeks of winter. So, what better time to share how we’ve prepped the henhouse for winter this season? While I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, I also wanted to ensure our methods worked before sharing… just in case some of you look to our half-assery for guidance. So here it is…

This was the first year we had to winterize for chickens–our flock last year went to Gigi’s (Tarin’s mother) before winter. When the hens stopped laying eggs mad-fall, Gigi came by to help us see if it was something we were doing… it was. We learned that we weren’t letting the hens out early enough nor did the feed we had provide enough calcium for layers. And because we had no idea what we were doing or plans developed for how to brace for winter, Gigi offered to take the hens to her coop for the winter. Needless to say, that flock stayed with Gigi as the Norris’ welcomed their newest little one to the world and the idea of taking chickens back on was a little much for them this spring.

This spring, the Camp kids pleaded hard and presented some strong cases for getting chickens again. They vowed to help care for the hens every day–rain, sleet, ice, or snow (like the postal code goes). It’s been amazing to see them work together to care for the hens, though they need reminders from time to time. This flock has a few hens that are STILL producing eggs, which amazes me. While the adorable little coop we bought for the last flock is less than ideal for a number of reasons–difficult to clean, flimsy door, barely large enough for 8 hens–we decided to refrain from investing in a larger coop just yet for two reasons:

  1. I wasn’t completely confident the hens, or really the kids, would last through the winter. This pregnancy has really sucked the energy out of me so the responsibility of keeping the hens alive has been soley on the kids and just supervised by Sr. and me. We fully anticipated the possibility of the kids throwing the towel in and needing to rehome our sweet hens.
  2. Our barely-big-enough coop actually seems to be an advantage in the cold winter while a larger coop might require more work to winterize. Our coop is designed for 6-8 hens, we have 8. But the tight quarters are actually a benefit as they keep the hens warm with less dead space to have to keep warm.

We’ve had some pretty cold, icy, and snowy weather this winter and the kids, hens, and coop continue to persevere. I’m glad we chose to wait on a bigger coop as the winter care experience will also help us determine the best coop feature we want when we upgrade in the spring.

So how did we winterize this year? It was actually pretty simple and cost-effective! First, I did some research and came across the idea of winterizing the run by blocking the wind with clear tarps. Since our coop sits in the run pen, we determined that this would be a two-in-one solution!

I purchased four 8 x 12 clear heavy-duty tarps from Amazon. These would not only block the hens, and their coop, from blustery winds but also allow us to maintain some visibility in the run. We ran the tarps horizontally (with the 12 ft side across the walls of the run) and secured them with zip-ties. The sides of our run are less than 8 ft but the excess height of the tarps actually provide a little coverage from snow on the edges of the run.

We also purchased a few bales of straw to provide more insulation in and outside of the run. Inside the run, we placed two bales against the open side of the coop, which is placed in the corner of the run. Outside the run, we placed the remainder of the bales against walls. As we get snow and ice, we use straw from the bales to provide a dry pad and walkways for the hens to walk on and stave off possible frostbite. The only issue we’ve run into is, recently–because we don’t have our straw bales covered–they freeze and are next to impossible to break apart. We’ve just used our pine bedding on the floor of the run instead.

Speaking of bedding, we’ve upped how much bedding we use as well for the winter. This helps insulate inside the coop and maintains a dry space for our hens.

When it comes to water, we’re simply using a bowl of water, checking and refilling throughout the day, when the temps are low enough to freeze up our gravity waterer. I thought for sure we’d have a water warmer by now, but haven’t seen enough need to invest in one just yet.

Whether you come here for guidance, curiosity, or entertainment, thank you. And know we always welcome your questions and comments!



Cranberry Heat Dip **Repost**

It’s another year of my favorite holiday appetizer! I’ll be making double or triple batches this season. Check it out below!

If you’re looking for an appetizer that’s sure to impress, you’re in the right place! This one’s creamy with a sweet heat and all the right holiday flavors. But I’m no food blogger so I’ll cut straight to the chase and give you the recipe… if you like a little story with your recipes, feel free to read the second half of this post for how this recipe came to be.

Cranberry Heat Dip

Prep Time: About 20 minutes

NOTES:

  • This recipe requires that you let the ingredients rest in the refrigerator overnight for the best flavor.
  • This recipe gets it heat from Serrano peppers, which are hotter than jalapeños (about 5xs hotter). Don’t worry, the citrus from the orange with the cream cheese cool it down. If you’re heat sensitive, you can try using less Serranos. If you’re a heat-weeny, you can sub them for jalapeños.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries, uncooked
  • 2-3 Serrano peppers (depending on your heat preference)
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • 16 oz whipped cream cheese
  • Crackers (I like Triscuits or Ritz)

TOOLS:

  • Knife
  • A nice pie dish to serve your dip
  • A medium bowl
  • A spoon or rubber spatula
  • A zester (or a fine cheese grate will work in a pinch)
  • Colander

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop your cranberries. If you have never chopped fresh cranberries before, you’ll find these boogers can be messy. You don’t need to chop them all individually but you want to avoid any whole cranberries.
  2. Dice the Serrano peppers and chop the green onions.
  3. In a medium bowl toss in the cranberries, peppers, and onions. Combine the mixture with the sugar and salt
  4. Zest your orange into the bowl then cut it in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl and stir well incorporated.
  5. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. The next day, remove the bowl from the fridge and give it another good stir.
  7. Spoon the whipped cream cheese into your serving dish.
  8. Pour the cranberry mixture into the colander to strain the excess juice.
  9. Pour the strained cranberry mixture over your whipped cream cheese. Cover and put back in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.
  10. Serve your dip with crackers and a spoon to help spread onto crackers.
  11. Enjoy!

The Story

As we all know, 2020 has been one giant shitstorm. The impact of COVID-19 has lasted much longer than we all anticipated and has overshadowed the winter holidays. Despite celebrating much smaller than usual and a day later, we still planned to have the traditional dinner at Thanksgiving with a few family members. A few days before Thanksgiving we were invited to celebrate over dinner with our good friends the Sickles. Having the main, sides, and desserts covered, Rachel asked if I could bring an appetizer. Well, turns out I’ve never made an appetizer for a holiday meal!

So I did what anyone does when searching for inspiration… I hit Pinterest. This Cranberry Jalapeño Dip caught my eye so I had Sr. pick up the ingredients during a last minute run to the grocer. Sr. couldn’t find jalapeño’s so he brought home Serranos. My friend Carlos once told me that Serranos we much better than jalapeño, with better heat and flavor. To be safe I only used 2 Serranos, since they can be significantly hotter than jalapeños.

Additionally, we’ve been binge-watching the Kids Ultimate Holiday Baking Championships. So with the inspirations of great flavor pairings and Grace’s desire to zest every orange she sees like the kids on t.v., we decided to replace the lemon in the original recipe with orange.

This dip was a HIT y’all! The creaminess of the soft cream cheese, the sweet tang of the sugared cranberries and orange, and the slow heat of the Serrano make it pure joy. It was so good I let the Sickles keep the rest and made another dish the next day for dinner at our house. Sr. mentioned that it could be a but hooter so the second time I used an extra pepper and will use 4 the next time.



At War with Mother-in-Law’s Revenge

When we first moved in, Kay, the previous homeowner, came to pick up some mail and offered some gardening tips on how to care for all the beautiful perennials she planted in her 40 years in the home. One of the first things she said was that I needed to pull the “mother-in-law’s revenge” early and often.

What’s mother-in-law’s revenge, you ask? Well, Kay didn’t really know what it was but she named this formidable garden invader after her mother-in-law gifted Kay a few seedlings for her garden claiming they’d be the perfect filler and ground cover for her beautiful front gardens. Kay’s mother-in-law passed shortly after she planted them and said they’ve been haunting her gardens ever since. The seedlings quickly multiplied and choked out many of her strongest plants. She’s been pulling them from her garden–and cursing her mother-in-law–every year since.

Since making this our home and taking over the gardens, I too now curse Kay’s mother-in-law every time I have to weed it out of the gardens. It doesn’t just cover the open, available real estate on the ground, it likes to hide in the middle of other plants–like my hostas, chrysanthemums, and russian sage–making finding them early and pulling a bitch. And despite my best back-breaking, weed-pulling efforts, it seems to come back with more vehemence each time. I’m telling y’all this stuff could flourish in a vat of bleach with no light.

Finally, I did some research last year and discovered the real name of this pest–goutweed. Goutweed is an extremely aggressive, invasive perennial. Savvy Gardening calls it the “cockroach of the botanical world” and “a beast to eradicate”. While on the prohibited or restricted plant list in some states, goutweed can be found in some garden centers under the name of “bishop’s-weed” or even “snow-on-the-mountian”.

Turns out, Kay’s approach of pulling the plant, which often comes up fairly easily, is one of the worst things you can do! Goutweed stems from a web of rhizomes which branch far and wide underground. You see, rhizomes have a nasty habit of multiplying from broken or left behind roots in the ground–like when you pluck gray a hair and five more emerge, thriving and taunting you.

So how do you get rid of it? It’s a painstaking process. Many sites recommend fully covering it with plastic, essentially “cooking” the devil which can take anywhere from 8 weeks to 2 whole seasons. You can also smother it by cutting it down and covering it with cardboard and mulch – 2-3 feet beyond the menace’s prersence. Another option is spraying it down with a vinegar solution or even chemical-based weed killer like Round-up.

My initial plan was to try the smother and cover method. I figured I could cover around some existing plants and add good soil above, building up the gardens and planting new perennials which would look better in the front of the house than black plastic. Besides, I had PLENTY of cardboard thanks to Amazon and Christmas time which I stored for several months. Unfortunately, when we prepared for hosting my sister-in-law’s engagement party in May, Sr. wanted the garage clean and recycled all my cardboard. To be fair, I caved and gave him permission.

June is always a busy month at work and difficult for me to get in the gardens and then I was out of comission for several months with nausea in my first trimester. By the time I got back to life–and the gardens–in September, mother-in-law’s revenge had ravaged the front gardens.

Exhausted and over it, I’m not ashamed to say I finally caved and turned to the chemicals. After all, this was war. I came to terms with the fact that there’d be some casualties, like my russian sage, mums, and a few other perennials. After the first careful spray, I was disappointed that the beast didn’t begin to wither within hours. I had totally imagined a scene out of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy douses the Wicked Witch with water and finally ends her reign of terror.

No such luck. However, after a few weeks a difference could be seen. AND my chrysanthemums didn’t die! Two more rounds of spraying and I’ve made a serious dent in the rein of Kay’s Mother-in-law’s revenge.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the cold weather has stalled my progress because the chemical sprays are recommended for using weather above 60 degrees. Looks like there will be more work in the spring. I’m thinking I may need to srpay again a time or two and then will likely cover with cardboard and fresh soil so I can plant a few new beauties. This will allow the new plants to thrive while the chemicals dissipate under the decomposing cardboard barrier.

I also haven’t touched the bed of hostas in front of the kitchen bay window yet but I plan to smother and cover that small bed. With my Japanese Maple in that bed, I don’t want to use any chemicals. Besides, the hostas are overgrown and can’t be divided because they’re infested with goutweed so removal or covering is the best option. I’ll cover it this winter and it’ll be fun to design a new perennial bed there in the spring–something that doesn’t have hostas maybe?



Vintage Drawer to Ottoman Project

I’ve been working on my glass porch/sunroom makeover since late Fall. It all started with a darling mid-century sofa with an eccentric floral print. I recently got a gorgeous vintage chair that paired beautifully with the sofa and really made the room feel like it was coming together. The only issue was the coffee table, a Marshalls find from October, was too heavy for the room and didn’t seem to fit. Besides, we used it more for propping our feet on than holding items. I moved the coffee table to Grace’s room and swapped it for a great side table with mid-century vibes that I’ve had since my college years.

Of course, this still left us with nothing to put our feet on – and with my new chair’s comfortable matching ottoman the sofa seemed the less desirable seat in the room. I really felt we needed a light colored ottoman, preferably with storage for blankets. Then I remembered the drawer I had in the basement. It had been sitting on the floor for two years now, since last Christmas when we removed it from the vintage vanity we got Ella for Christmas. Both girls were dying for a vanity, like Fancy Nancy. I found a beautiful vintage vanity about an hour away.

When we got it to Ella’s room Christmas afternoon, the bottom drawer had almost no more stability left and was barely functional so my father-in-law, Jeff, recommended we just remove the bottom drawer and leave the top on. My Mother-in-law, Becky, told me to keep the drawer and do some kind of up-cycle project with it, like a shelf or something. I didn’t see the vision she had at the time but I kept the drawer and bottom molding anyway. It’s been tucked away in a dark corner of the basement ever since–holding my favorite cowboy hat of Sr.’s and a few old frames. I actually only remembered it because I stubbed my toe on it while trying to hide gift for Christmas.

Anyway, I thought this might be the perfect base for an ottoman. Originally I considered a tufted look like this ottoman I found on Pinterest, but quickly pulled myself back into reality. I mean, it was a few days before Christmas! Who was I kidding? I was giving no more than a half-ass effort at best. Also, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to upholstery and tufting seemed a little too advanced.

The next day, I took my brother Josh (Josh was here for Christmas!) to the hardware and fabric store. I spent more on the one yard of “high density” 3″ foam than I did anything else.

For this project I used:

  • 24 x 32 inch precut plywood
  • metal brackets and hardware
  • chalky finish spray paint in Antique white
  • 1 yard 3″ high density foam
  • 2 yard upholstery fabric (more than I needed but it was on sale for $9.99!
  • Cotton batting
  • spray adhesive
  • 4 4″ table legs
  • rotary saw
  • bread knife
  • power drill

First, I measured and cut the plywood down. This would butt up against the back of the moulding and serve as the lid. Then I used the spray paint to paint the bottom of the board, the legs and the other 3 sides of the drawer, the front was already painted. It was the perfect mild, sunny December day for sippin’ whiskey and watchin’ paint dry.

Once everything dried I traced the lid on the foam and used a bread knife to cut the foam into shape. There with blocks supporting the lip on the molding I needed to cut out as well.

Next was measuring my fabric and batting. I had been thinking about how I’d attache the cushion to the lid all day and still hadn’t decided but felt like I could try to attach it with the spray adhesive first. Of course, this meant that I’d have no great way to stretch the fabric over the foam. I tried it anyway but ended up with more mess than success. My finger kept sticking to the spray trigger and ripping it off the bottle. I felt like Clark Griswold trying to read the magazine after handling the Christmas tree.

Not only that but the velvet fabric was too bulky for the adhesive, or my patience. I quickly changed tactics and found the staple gun. This was much more satisfying. Unfortunately, at least as mush as I have figured it out so far, wrapping the cloth round the lid base means I wont be able to add the hinges I planned for. Never the less, the fabric looks much better and the top is light enough to just lift or shift out of the way to grab a blanket from the drawer.

Josh helped me add the legs by extending the thread posts so they could be attached to the bottom.

And voilà!!

I couldn’t be more please with the project, though I’ll likely do a little adjusting–to my corner seams for example or adding a little trim detail. It’s just the right height and the perfect size for the space.



My Latest Obsession

Earlier this fall, Tarin told me about this great estate sale in the village that she found and asked if I would mind taking our truck up to pick up the chair and other things she purchased. As pulled up to the sale I noticed wicker furniture in the drive along with mismatched chairs of all occasions. We loaded Tarin’s finds into the truck and she encouraged me to walk around as she took a second glance.

As I walked into the screened sunroom, there were more chairs. And there it was–this darling mid-century sofa with eccentric floral cushions. I fell in love.

Of course, the price tag was in love with the sofa as well. The hefty price almost had me walking away but Tarin recommended I ask if they’d come down. A little negotiation and the sofa was mine and in the truck.

Originally, I planned to put it in the basement guest room but decided that I liked it too much to have it stuffed away in the basement. I mean look at this print! I screams for a spot with a view.

Note: This basement guest room is still a work in progress. Not pictured, the rainforest and macaw print border at the top of the wall.

The glass porch/office/studio came with white wicker furniture–the only furniture the previous homeowners left in the house. We were so thankful for the furniture too, as our moving truck took two weeks to deliver our furniture from Texas, it was the only thing we had to sit on those first few weeks here. Wicker has a bit of southern charm in my mind and it was in great shape. I updated the cushions and added a bright rug and the sunroom was now my favorite room in the house, for more than just the views. It serves as the perfect back drop to my Zoom feed at work with many compliments from folks remarking how they’d like to have tea with me here, and the natural light and scenery make it the perfect place to paint (on the few occasions I pick up a brush).

This was the perfect place to put the sofa. Of course this called for a complete redecoration of the room.

I decided to wait until I had two chairs to go in the room with the sofa, just as our current set up is. I scoured the local Facebook market place, I wanted a rocker, but every rocker was more of a standard rocking chair you’d find in grandma’s sewing room. I searched Wayfair top to bottom, saving a few mid-century style chair but found nothing I loved. Besides, Wayfair just seemed like cheating. I wanted another great find–something well made, with history and character. I searched the local antique barns for a month before I found anything close to my liking.

These two antique chairs were in an antique barn just a few miles from the Camp Farm.

My friend, Rachel, came over one evening to help me switch out the furniture. It’s an excellent start but I’m still working on refining the feel of the room. I also need to fine the right rug. I got one on Wayfair but it clashed with the print so I’m still searching.

Oh! And I also found some amazing crystal stemware at the estate sale which demanded to be showcased. This lead to the search for a cabinet worthy of storing such sophistication.

With the 4th piece of vintage furniture bought in just three months, I’d say my obsession is in full swing! I’m always looking for a bargain and not afraid of a little dust.

As the cold keeps me indoors and the gardens dormant, I’m now focusing more on finding the voice of this home; after 3 years here I feel like I can hear it. It’s a combination of farmhouse, vintage comfort with a touch of retro accented with splashes of fancy. I’ll be sharing a little about the pieces I find and how I’m transforming rooms with them – and repurposing the existing furniture I keep. Also, I have a big remodel planned at the end of next year! Stay tuned, y’all!



Cranberry Heat Dip

If you’re looking for an appetizer that’s sure to impress, you’re in the right place! This one’s creamy with a sweet heat and all the right holiday flavors. But I’m no food blogger so I’ll cut straight to the chase and give you recipe… if you like a little story with your recipes, feel free to read the second half of this post for how this recipe came to be.

Cranberry Heat Dip

Prep Time: About 20 minutes

NOTES:

  • This recipe requires that you let the ingredients rest in the refrigerator overnight for the best flavor.
  • This recipe gets it heat from Serrano peppers, which are hotter than jalapeños (about 5xs hotter). Don’t worry, the citrus from the orange with the cream cheese cool it down. If you’re heat sensitive, you can try using less Serranos. If you’re a heat-weeny, you can sub them for jalapeños.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries, uncooked
  • 2-3 Serrano peppers (depending on your heat preference)
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • 16 oz whipped cream cheese
  • Crackers (I like Triscuits or Ritz)

TOOLS:

  • Knife
  • A nice pie dish to serve your dip
  • A medium bowl
  • A spoon or rubber spatula
  • A zester (or a fine cheese grate will work in a pinch)
  • Colander

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop your cranberries. If you have never chopped fresh cranberries before, you’ll find these boogers can be messy. You don’t need to chop them all individually but you want to avoid any whole cranberries.
  2. Dice the Serrano peppers and chop the green onions.
  3. In a medium bowl toss in the cranberries, peppers, and onions. Combine the mixture with the sugar and salt
  4. Zest your orange into the bowl then cut it in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl and stir well incorporated.
  5. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. The next day, remove the bowl from the fridge and give it another good stir.
  7. Spoon the whipped cream cheese into your serving dish.
  8. Pour the cranberry mixture into the colander to strain the excess juice.
  9. Pour the strained cranberry mixture over your whipped cream cheese. Cover and put back in the refrigerator if not serving immediately.
  10. Serve your dip with crackers and a spoon to help spread onto crackers.
  11. Enjoy!

The Story

As we all know, 2020 has been one giant shitstorm. The impact of COVID-19 has lasted much longer than we all anticipated and has overshadowed the winter holidays. Despite celebrating much smaller than usual and a day later, we still planned to have the traditional dinner at Thanksgiving with a few family members. A few days before Thanksgiving we were invited to celebrate over dinner with our good friends the Sickles. Having the main, sides, and desserts covered, Rachel asked if I could bring an appetizer. Well, turns out I’ve never made an appetizer for a holiday meal!

So I did what anyone does when searching for inspiration… I hit Pinterest. This Cranberry Jalapeño Dip caught my eye so I had Sr. pick up the ingredients during a last minute run to the grocer. Sr. couldn’t find jalapeño’s so he brought home Serranos. My friend Carlos once told me that Serranos we much better than jalapeño, with a better heat and flavor. To be safe I only used 2 Serranos, since they can be significantly hotter than jalapeños.

Additionally we’ve been binge watching the Kids Ultimate Holiday Baking Championships. So with the inspirations of great flavor pairings and Grace’s desire to zest every orange she sees like the kids on t.v., we decided to replace the lemon in the original recipe with orange.

This dip was a HIT y’all! The creaminess of the soft cream cheese, the sweet tang of the sugared cranberries and orange, and the slow heat of the Serrano make it pure joy. It was so good I let the Sickles keep the rest and made another dish the next day for dinner at our house. Sr. mentioned that it could be a but hooter so the second time I used an extra pepper and will use 4 the next time.



There’s a Reason We Call it Half-Ass

Y’all. Seriously, WHERE has the month gone?

This school year has nearly eaten our lunch here at the Half-Ass Homestead – three online learners at the Camp House and two home schoolers at the Norris House. Work has been even busier than ever for me and Tarin went back to work so the big garden has been just a little neglected 😬

The kids have gotten great use out of it though; picking peppers and tomatoes or digging for worms for the hens

Speaking of the hens, we were getting 4-5 eggs a day from our girls but that all stopped a few weeks ago. We’re thinking this is a light issue but will be investigating more.

Some days I feel Zoom runs our lives. Thank goodness for great weather and the new swing set that finally arrived… and for wine and whiskey. 🥃

The kids have been writing draft posts that I need to catch up on so be on the look out for those. I’ve decided that things won’t be slowing down anytime soon with some exciting work projects, the change in season, and the holidays coming up, let the half-assery begin!

P.S. Please send more wine or whiskey.